J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most enduring works in all of American Literature and, arguably, one of the most influential. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist and narrator, chronicles his efforts, not so much to understand himself or other people, but to ridicule their “phoniness” and insulate himself from becoming one of them. He attempts to accomplish this goal in his role as a not-so-reluctant and profoundly narcissistic narrator. His unique voice and diction render him simultaneously involved in and removed from events and interactions with which he is not only engaged, but which deeply impact his fragile sense of self. Telling his story in this manner is a desperate attempt at self-preservation and protection, as well as (what he believes to be) a secure approach to restoring his sanity and connection to himself. Caulfield’s language of contempt for what he sees as the phoniness of virtually every one of the power figures around him wrests control away from those people whom he believes are responsible for his life not being what he thinks it should be. I will show that just as J.D. Salinger does with Holden Caulfield the character, Caulfield the narrator (author) creates an alter ego or “second self” through whom he engages the reader in his story. In doing so, he attempts to insulate himself from both responsibility and consequence, an inherently narcissistic goal, but a uniquely necessary one for Holden in his search for an authentic identity.
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